The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has opened pre-registration for Phase 2 of its Small Business Emergency Assistance Loan Program as part of Gov. Phil Murphy's ongoing COVID-19 relief effort.

NJEDA Director of Business Banking Derrick Benns said the loan program provides financing of up to $100,000 at 0% interest to eligible New Jersey small businesses and nonprofits.

The NJEDA created this loan program for small businesses in March 2020. To date, it has approved 145 loans for a combined total of more than $10 million.

In this phase, Benns said financing will be available for entities that have been left out of previous COVID-19 relief programs and will focus on those that have taken on new space in 2021.

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Businesses with $10 million or less in annual revenue that have executed a new lease, leased additional space or acquired an owner-occupied commercial space of at least 500 square feet on or after January 1, 2021 will considered Stage 1 applicants, Benns said.

Those small businesses that meet all other eligibility criteria will be eligible to apply as "Stage 2" applicants.

Initially, Phase 2 was approved in July 2020, Benns said. Then this past June, a modification was added because the NJEDA wanted to target a different group of businesses left out of prior assistance. Now the focus is on resilience. Uses of the funds will be used to help businesses going forward to achieve long-term sustainability.

Also in line with Murphy's commitment to building a stronger and fairer New Jersey, Benns said $3.5 million of the $10 million in this program has been reserved for businesses and eligible nonprofits in the Opportunity Zone.

There are 715 census tracts in New Jersey considered Opportunity Zones. Benns said if a business is located in one of those tracts, they have a greater opportunity to be successful in obtaining the financing because there is a set-aside for those businesses in the Opportunity Zone.

Interested businesses can pre-register on the portal at https://business.nj.gov/covid/emergency-assistance-loan-program.

Benns said on the portal, interested entities can check out frequently asked questions, a checklist, pre-registration slides as well as a Powerpoint about the program. There will also be a walk-through of the program and see slide-by-slide what the actual pre-registration application looks like.

All entities must pre-register before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 30, to be eligible to apply for the loan. Pre-registration is NOT first come, first served, Benns said.

Once pre-registration wraps up, applications will open for Stage 1 applicants at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Applications will remain open for 10 days. If the NJEDA has not received enough applications from Stage 1 applicants, it will open applications to all other qualified Stage 2 entities on Friday, Aug. 13.

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